Israel to Give Third Covid Vaccine Shots to Those Over 60
JERUSALEM – Israel will begin giving a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to people 60 years of age and older, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday, citing the growing risk of a virus wave fueled by the Delta variant.
The health ministry has asked the country’s four main health care providers to start giving a Pfizer vaccine booster on Sunday to Israelis in that age group who received a second dose more than five months ago. President Isaac Herzog, 60, will be the first to receive a booster shot on Friday, Bennett said.
“The battle against Covid is a global effort,” Mr. Bennett said.
Whether booster shots are needed for the elderly is a far from settled question among scientists. Most studies indicate that the immunity resulting from vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna is long lasting, and researchers are still trying to interpret recent Israeli data suggesting a decline in the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for months. after inoculation.
Pfizer on Wednesday proposed its own study showing a marginal decline in efficacy against symptomatic coronavirus infection months after vaccination, although the vaccine remained potently effective against serious illness and death. The company has also started advocating for booster shots in the United States.
The latest move by the Israeli government, one of the first to administer vaccines, follows an analysis by the Ministry of Health which estimated that the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in preventing serious illness remains above 90% , but that his ability to stop the infection had waned over time.
Some experts have pushed back the rush to approve a recall in Israel. The data are too uncertain, they say, to estimate how much effectiveness has declined. For example, the epidemic caused by the Delta first hit parts of the country with high vaccination rates and hit other areas later.
Since June, there has been a steady rise in the daily rate of new cases of the virus in Israel, and the seven-day average is 1,670 per day. The figure topped 2,300 one day this week, a spike that health experts attributed to the spread of the most contagious Delta variant.
The daily rate is still well below that of the peak of the third wave of infections in Israel in January, when the number of new daily cases briefly exceeded 11,000. But it is much higher than in mid-January. June, when the number fell to single digits and the government relaxed almost all antivirus restrictions to allow daily life to return to normal.
However, the number of patients with coronavirus in hospitals remains relatively low; a total of 159 people were hospitalized on Thursday, far less than the figure of more than 2,000 at the height of the third wave in january.
In the United States, health officials in the Biden administration increasingly believe vulnerable populations may need additional vaccines even as research continues on how long coronavirus vaccines remain effective.
Sharon LaFraniere and Carl Zimmer contributed reporting.
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